2006.06.28 Someone I hate

Written by David Green.


By JEFF PICKELL

(Before I begin this week’s column, I should tell you that, when I was interviewing for my job here at the Observer, David suggested his second email to me that I might have a tendency toward wordiness. This was after I sent him a way-too-long 4,000 word description of my anthropology minor that I could’ve easily cut down to a way-too-long 2,000 word description.

And he was right. I am the king of wordiness. But, of late I’ve been trying to cut back on my logorrhea. (To make this column suitable for public consumption, I should pass on that logorrhea is, to paraphrase Webster, pathologically excessive wordiness.

In fact, it’s not rare that I see “make suitable for public consumption” next to one of my 50-word single sentence paragraphs. In fact, it’s not rare for Colleen and Kim to cross out “in fact” when it appears in my rough drafts. In fact, they insist I remove the phrase from my lexicon.

A lexicon, by the way, is basically one’s vocabulary.

“Why didn’t he just use the word ‘vocabulary’ in the first place?” I’m sure you’re asking.

You see, as a trained English major, it’s not my job to say what I actually mean. It’s not my job to say anything, in fact. That’s the secret of the academic study of literature—professors get paid to produce articles about nothing that nobody reads and they rear their students to do the same.

The problem is, there aren’t enough professorships to go around, so most English majors end up at small town newspapers writing articles that make editors slap their heads in frustration and wonder why they got into the business in the first place.

But you have to give me credit; I’ve come a long way. For proof, here’s a passage I wrote in college about a character in Faulkner’s Absalom! Absalom!:

“Though slavery has been abolished, Wash, the white man, still unconsciously perpetuates the master-slave, superior-inferior, relationship established before the advent of the war. And he does this, apparently, for no other reason than that he might restore the master, who currently is no greater or richer than he, back to the position he would have before the fall of slavery, and thus further subordinate himself.”

My professor responded to my painstakingly-formulated nonsensical claim with a margin note to the effect of “not really.” To this day, I don’t know whether he was agreeing or disagreeing with me. He also remarked that the paper was “well-written” and either “neatly argued” or “nerdly” argued—I can’t really read his handwriting. But I got an A-minus, which I think is pretty good for a paper on a 300-page book that only has four sentences.

Over the 40 hours I spent writing it, about 50,000 children died in Africa.

But who wants to be a spoilsport and bring all that nastiness up when we could be writing papers about Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, which asks the profound question: “Roguenaar Loudbrags, that soddy old samph! How high is vuile, var?”

James Joyce’s three novels—A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake—are now regarded as three huge acts of charity. They have created jobs for thousands upon thousands of English professors who otherwise would have to engage in worthwhile behavior for a living.

Am I coming off as a tad hostile toward academic English studies? Good. There are useful kinds of writing. Journalism is useful. Book and movie reviews are useful. Novels and short stories are useful. But writing about what a book is about, often in such haughty and archaic prose that the writing itself is indecipherable? Please.

After all, in his Imaginations, William Carlos Williams wrote, “Prose, relieved of extraneous, unrelated values must return to its only purpose; to clarity to enlighten the understanding.”

It’s a journalist’s job to clarity to enlighten the understanding—I just didn’t get it when I started here. I was still stuck in my illusory microcosm of literary cosmopolitanism, preoccupied with pastoral hyperbole, wandering amongst the disjunct adverbial clauses that lolled, withering forth, as a seaflower, pale as a child’s belly, in the vast and gelatin ocean of my imagination.

Which is to say, I was still obsessed with high falutin’ words and stupid gimmicks. Anyway, on with the column.))

I hate Ben Affleck.

– June 28, 2006
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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